A new way of measuring ear-level amplitude can help diagnose patients with hearing loss or conditions like asthma, an international team of researchers reports.
The instrument can be used to diagnose a wide range of conditions including hearing loss, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis and asthma, as well as hearing disorders such as ototoxicity.
This type of ear-worn, microphone-based measurement, called a gloss measurement instrument, can also help detect signs of hearing loss.
The British-based researchers say the device can also be used in conjunction with the conventional methods of detecting hearing loss by ear and ear-piece tests.
The researchers’ findings, which were published online in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, could help to improve understanding of hearing impairment and ear diseases in the future.
The team, led by the University of Sheffield, say that the new device is more sensitive and accurate than current methods of measurement.
In particular, they say the new technology can be more sensitive to the signals produced by the eardrum, or the small space between the inner ear and the surrounding tissue.
The gloss measuring instrument can measure amplitude in micrometres (microns) at a range of frequencies.
It’s also able to detect sound waves, which is a crucial feature when it comes to hearing conditions such as hearing loss and ototoxicosis.
The device uses a microphone inside a helmet-like device that measures the signal produced by a patient’s eardrums, and converts it to a digital signal for a user to record.
This is then sent to a computer to measure the sound waves produced by their eardromes.
The sound wave is then converted to a reading on a screen.
A reader then compares the reading to a patient with hearing impairment to determine if the patient has hearing loss due to hearing loss from the ears or hearing loss caused by the ear or earpiece.
The new device can detect the difference between a patient reading a letter on a piece of paper and reading it in a computer program, as shown in the video below.
The research team also noted that the device was more sensitive than a conventional device that only measures the volume of the room a person is in.
The scientists used the new instrument to record a patient in a noisy room, and also to test the device with the hearing-loss patients they were measuring.
The devices are currently being tested in patients in the United Kingdom.
This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust.
Al Jazeera’s Chris Fenton reports from London.